Mississauga project a first step to ease GTA’s transit woes

·6 min read

When MiWay’s route 76 bus leaves Mississauga, it effectively seals its doors. The service is not allowed to serve the City of Toronto, apart from its terminus stop at Kipling Station, where it connects riders to the subway.

The rule means the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) has to duplicate MiWay’s service for Torontonians. It’s one of many examples of poorly integrated transit services in the GTA.

Later this year, that could change as part of a very limited trial project. A pilot agreement between the TTC and MiWay will allow residents to hop on and off Mississauga buses when they travel through Toronto. The service integration demonstration means the TTC can relocate its local service and could show transit agencies how to work together to revolutionize the lives of commuters.

It’s the first step on a long road to fare and service integration across southern Ontario.

“Service integration will allow 905 buses to open their doors and pick-up and drop-off within the City of Toronto on route [to] and from their connecting terminal,” a staff report that councillors will consider today (June 9) explains.

A change to the rules and an update to the Presto fare box system will allow MiWay buses to stop inside Toronto. The pilot project will see the TTC scrap service and allow Mississauga buses to pick up the slack, an early sign transit agencies are seriously working together to remove duplication.

In its current form, it will not include an integrated fare strategy for the two cities.

“[Fare integration] can only be achieved at the system level and not with a single route(s),” the report adds. “Service integration opportunities ... are aimed at reducing service duplication amongst transit agencies by providing access to any bus along the corridor.”

According to City staff, 10 percent of all travel in the Greater Toronto Hamilton Area (GTHA) is between Toronto and the 905. Almost 13 percent of all TTC customers begin or end their journeys outside of Toronto itself. Easing the transition from one service to another is vitally important if municipalities wish to get commuters out of their automobiles and onto public transit.

Duplication is prominent on three major Toronto thoroughfares served regularly by MiWay buses. The three roads differ in length and service levels: Burnhamthorpe Road is shared for 6.8 kilometres; Dundas Street for 2.2 kilometres before buses join provincially run Highway 427; and Bloor Street for 4.8 kilometres. MiWay operates eight bus routes along Dundas Street in Toronto, three along Bloor Street and two along Burnhamthorpe Road.

Miway’s limited pilot will not impact Dundas Street or Bloor Street, but the TTC will effectively cede control of Burnhamthorpe Road to Mississauga later in the year.

Currently, the TTC’s number 50 bus operates along the length of the shared portion of Burnhamthorpe. MiWay 26 serves the corridor stopping at Islington Station, Kipling Station and South Common Mall in Mississauga. Route 76 also operates on Burnhamthorpe Road, but does not yet cover the portion served by TTC.

When the pilot begins, the TTC will retire its Route 50 and MiWay will work to pick up the slack. Route 76 will be tweaked to serve the area and 5,000 extra service hours (or two buses) will be added to improve frequency.

Changes to the Presto system will be required to ensure fares are collected for the correct transit agency. The Presto fare system will use taps and GPS coordinates to assign revenue between the TTC and MiWay, depending on a passenger’s journey.

For this to be successful, MiWay will need to update its Presto software and add machines at the rear doors of its buses. Presto card readers are equipped with the technology to note municipal and geographical boundaries, something GO bus service leverages to charge riders for the distance travelled when they tap on and tap off.

“Our refreshed Presto devices include an integrated GPS so the readers know their location and when coupled with the appropriate software can collect the appropriate fare,” a spokesperson for the City of Mississauga told The Pointer.

The limited pilot comes as pressure for improved fare and service integration around Toronto is growing.

In December, the Toronto Region Board of Trade (TRBOT) released a report outlining how the GTHA could pivot to a fare structure based on zones. In place of the current system, where many operators work and plan in isolation, it imagined a scenario where transit riders could transfer seamlessly through different areas under one unified plan.

The introduction of Presto was initially meant to pave the way for better regional integration, but its potential to unlock the GTA’s clunky transit design has not yet been fulfilled. The technology is at the heart of TRBOT’s proposals and is a key part of the MiWay-TTC partnership.

In its proposal, TRBOT suggested a standard fare of $3.25 to ride within two zones. These two zones could include Mississauga and outer Toronto or Mississauga and Oakville. In theory, those travelling the farthest would pay the highest fare ($2.50 for one extra zone and $10.50 for five), while those who travel shorter distances wouldn’t be punished for switching operators.

The MiWay pilot has come from the provincial fare and service integration table, led by Associate Minister of Transportation (GTA) Kinga Surma. The group has been tasked with solving the GTA’s transit connectivity woes and was formed after TRBOT launched its detailed proposal.

Mississauga is one of several different GTA-905 municipalities, led by the TTC, which will look at different service integration options. York Region has also announced plans for a similar integration trial with TTC, although it will operate under one fare system.

“There are a number of places where 905 routes reach into [Toronto] and, in some cases, provide considerably more frequent service than the TTC route. Allowing Toronto riders to use them can improve service for everyone,” Jonathan English, the author of TRBOT’s fare integration policy proposal, told The Pointer.

English said MiWay’s tentative pilot is a small but welcome first step. A broad redesign will still be necessary to realize the GTHA’s potential.

Email: isaac.callan@thepointer.com

Twitter: @isaaccallan

Tel: 647 561-4879

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Isaac Callan, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Pointer